Distillery Visits

Glenkinchie Distillery visit

Following signing up for our Friends of the Classic Malts passports at Dalwhinnie we decided on returning home that our local single malt whisky distillery was long overdue a visit. Our actual local distillery is Label5/Glen Turner owned by La Martiniquase at Starlaw Road a stone’s throw from the house – everything you could possibly want to know about it this new continuous still [or grain] distillery is likely in here:


We also have a couple of nearby bottling plants, one in Broxburn:


and the newly opened one in Livingston for the Glenmorangie company [& Ardbeg] in Alba business park, Livingston


Sadly the nearest pot still distillery [or Single Malt Scotch producers] up until fairly recently would have been St. Magdelenes in Linlithgow [closed in 1983 and now used for housing], or Rosebank in Falkirk [sold off in 2002 and hopefully now under renovation by Arran distillers?]

Glenkinchie distillery

So our nearest Distillery is Glenkinchie in East Lothian. The tour itself conforms to Diageo’s presets with a qualified indoctrinated whiskytourologist delivering Diageo’s  ‘how to make single malt-101’ [OK so I’m being a little cynical]. Actually at Glenkinchie I received the impression that some of their tour guides are actually locals and possibly even distillery workers or relatives thereof, unlike in Diageos’s Speyside distilleries where most tour guides were students gaining a little extra income. Due to the proximity to Edinburgh, Glenkinchie tours fill up fast and they host a lot of multinational visitors so most times we have been we have contributed the unique Scot to the tour party [except for the tour guide of course].

The pre-tour gathering area is through the old malting’s which now houses various whisky paraphernalia in their museum, including another great cutaway model of a distillery originally made for the world fair/industry exhibition in London but shipped up and re-built at the distillery.


After a brief explanation of the malting process and absence of peat use for Lowland Malts [and explanation that maltings are no longer on site], the tour passes by the Porteus barley mill and yeast storage tank onto the Mashtun capable of holding 15 tonnes of malted barley. The usual 3 wash process with volumes and temperatures of water is described to allow extraction of the maltose sugar [re-using the 3rd wash as the 1st wash of the next cycle, etc.]. Then onto the washbacks [6 of Oregon pine] for a wee squizz at the yeast doing it’s magic producing the usual 8% ABV barley beer and perhaps a sniff or two to pick up some of the aromas [mind the carbon dioxide!].


From here it is double distilled, first in the 30,968 litre wash still which is a beast. The top of this was recently replaced requiring the roof taken off! Then onto the 20,993 litre spirit still before going through the cut process in the spirit safe [described as the head, heart and tail – with only the middle cut being used for whisky the rest is stored and re-distilled with the next batch]. From here the spirit is diluted to 63% and interred into traditional oak casks, mostly bourbon with a little into sherry for the distillers edition perhaps…


After this it is on to the bonded warehouses which sadly are hermetically sealed, so you get a good view of all the casks behind glass but no chance to partake of the angel’s share and sniff those wonderful warehouse aromas. After this it is into the bar for a quick description of their biggest output [i.e. all the blends Diageo make – some of which the Glenkinchie malt goes into]. The tasting bar at Glenkinchie is actually quite cosy and they usually have all the usual Diageo range plus distillers editions & flora and fauna range. I usually get friendly with the tour guides and engage them in conversation at this stage about the range and what is their favourite – which is usually rewarded with a few extra drams and some recommendations from them. Luckily the bar turns out back into the shop where you can buy what you’ve tried.

If you have the time it is worth having a wander around the village, much of which was built for the distillery workers in a similar style and the remainder being good old vintage rural/agricultural cottages and farm outbuildings all of which are very picturesque and a world away from nearby Auld Reekie. Ah! another fine day for the scotch economy and then home.


Categories: Distillery Visits

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